Friday, December 18, 2015

How To Measure Your Worth as a Mom

Where do you have your eye popping AH HA, EUREKA, OMG moments? For me it is usually while driving down the Truman Parkway (probably waaaay over the speed limit... because... the speed limit is stupid). And suddenly I am like, "I need a pen! I need a pen! Where's my pen!?!" And E says, "Why? Whyyyy mommy? Why?!" And I'm like, "HUSH THE IDEA IS STILL IN MY BRAIN FOR TWO MORE SECONDS!!"

Ok.... you see how it goes.

Moving on...
Let me explain... For years and years of early motherhood, I have been SEARCHING for an answer to this burning question: "What are the metrics of motherhood?" or "In motherhood, how do we know, for sure, if we've been successful? How do we measure how we measure up? How do we know we've been living a life worthy of this job we've received?" 

The question isn't about competition and mommy wars (although a lot of people use this as their measuring system. Unfortunately. Away from me you competitioning mommies!)... it's just about knowing, at the end of the day, when you lay your head down (or don't, let's be real), that "Yeah, I did good today" and then letting yourself rest. Every job under the sun has this possibility... except motherhood. But how do we moms do that?

In a day... in a week... in a year... How do we actually know if we've done enough? Or too much?
Or done enough well? Or just scraped by?
Or barely cut it? Or over did it?

We don't have performance reviews. There is no grading scale. There are a zillion opinions and standards out there, and we can simply never live up to all of them or please everybody. Our kids think everything we've done is either the unvarnished work of GOD (OMG PANCAKES FOR BREAKFAST I COULD KISS YOU---AND I WILL---WITH A MOUTH COVERD IN SYRUP!!) or pure crap. Crap I tell you! (I hate you so hard for putting my blue socks on instead of my red socks! I could spit in your eye---and I will---Damn you woman!!)

It's like taking performance review from a Bi-Polar boss on crack with split personality disorder.

You learn early on that these little people are a terrible measuring tool. A terrible yard stick for sizing up your success at this messy mothering business.

I've been a mommy for almost 3 years... 4 if you count my pregnancy. Which I do. Cause... COME ON! Let's give women some credit for carrying the human race in their bodies for 10 months! Mmmmkaaay?!?!! Ok good. Ahem... So... 4 years. I've been a mommy for 4 years. I have never found a great answer to this question. I've found some answers... like Mommy Competition. But no great answers.

So then I'm driving down Truman Parkway... and it hits me.... *drum roll please*...

Measuring our success is SO important to us because we mistakenly identify the measure of our success with the measure of our worth.

Whoa. If I was speaking to you right now, I'd repeat that again...

I need an external system, or another voice, or a reliable measure in my own head telling me "You've done this well" so that at the end of the day, I can say, "Yeah. I'm worth my oxygen, my space, my food, my carbon footprint." My husband has his job. He has a reason. And he get's claps on the back and bonuses to tell him that he has done his reason well. And I covet that. Because I want to know that I've done my reason well. That I'm Worthy.

BTW, Worthy = Worth-y = Having Worth or Characterized by Worth. Full of Worth. Full of value. (We interrupt this regularly scheduled program to add: If you say Worth ten times fast, and stare at the written word, it loses all meaning. Worth.)

Let that sit with you for a second.

Is there anything more beautiful and affirming to the soul than Worth?

Is there anything more dehumanizing and painful than taking someone's Worth away?

One of the key reasons that Motherhood is so hard is because it removes us from the systems of measure that we have become familiar with using to gauge our worth. Grades. Promotions. Pay scale. Authority. End product. Affirming words. Recognition. Everything we have relied on for so many years from our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our coaches, etc... suddenly it's just kind of gone and we're doing this labor intensive, all-consuming, very invisible work and there is no one reliable to tell us we've done well. There's no one to affirm our Worth.

Sisters, let me offer you this with eager, gentle, humble hands...
Being removed from a system of external affirmations that define your worth is a BLESSING.
Being removed from the delusion that we can earn our worth or we need others to define it for us is a BLESSING.

Why? Because this will hyper-accelerate the deep seated understanding of one powerful truth: You Are Worthy. You. Just you. You. Are. Worthy. Loved. Beautiful. Deeply, richly cherished. Pure gold. You are Worthy. Not because of what you do, but because of who you are.

Sweet Mom-ing Girl, you don't feel super blessed because it's hard, but you are in a position that few in this world are priviledged to walk in... where you are forced to begin to understand that your Worth comes from within. No one can apply it to you. No one can define it for you. No one can give it to you in small bits or in giant douses. And no one can take it away. You are learning that just by being present, you are worthy.

Since we're in Advent, I was reading the song that Mary sings after the angel comes to let her know that she's going to be a mom. Go read Luke 1:46-49 (I linked it for you).

Why are all the nations going to call her blessed? Because she was super responsible, super sweet, super virtuous, super with it? Because she was the Pinterest Pro? Because she baked from scratch and healed all ailments with essential oils and vinegar? Because she never let her kids play with singing plastic toys or watch television? Because she never dropped the F-bomb?

She was probably great, but from her own lips she says, "They will call me blessed Because he looked on me." She was low. She was simple. She was an unremarkable teenager... and then he Looked on her. And suddenly she is transformed with worth.

Sisters, as you serve your children and your families and your communities and the world... he looks on you. On your humble state. On your roll as a servant. He looks on you. And you are Worthy.

Let the Worth he gives fill your soul. Walk in its strength. Everything you touch with an awareness of the Worthiness he has filled your being with is blessed.

Every scraped knee. Every sweaty forehead. Every chubby rashy diaper butt. Every weary husband. Every pile of laundry. They are blessed. Because he is good. Because he binds up the broken hearted. Because he redeems. Because he believes in the Best and Beautiful in you... because he made it.

You can believe in it too.

You don't have to hustle to be the perfect mom. You don't have to hustle for approval, or qualification, or back-pats, or a sense of pride. You just get to be free to live into this job with joy... because you're already worthy.

When we already have our worth, the pressure of perfectionism eases up.

The tantrums cease to be a public reflection on our personal failure to raise them up as non-selfish, non-outta control ass hats... and so the tantrums cease to be so humiliating. They become more, kinda, just... humorous?
The messes cease to be a reflection of our own failure to be orderly, peaceful humans... and become cozy chaos that we can live with like a nutty aunt until the time comes to tidy up.
That week where Little Son refuses to wear anything but shark swim trunks and a filthy shirt three sizes too big... next to his school buddies who only wear Gap and Ralph Lauren... it ceases to be a reflection on ME and just becomes a hilarious expression of his personality...

Because I'm already worthy.

My kids can be whoever they want to be... because I'm already worthy. Their journey toward maturity can be slow and steady, with room for failure... because I'm already worthy. Our house can occasionally look like a Hurricane Sandy crash site... because I'm already worthy.

Rather than trying to earn our worthiness through an external yard stick, let's let our internal worthiness ripple out into the work that we do. 

Let your security make your children secure. Let your blessedness bless your husband. Let your freedom free up your friends. Let your Worth be loud and confident and beautiful... because he looks on you with adoring eyes. His little masterpiece.

Measure your success in motherhood by those eyes.

Then spread the love that wells up in your heart around like confetti.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Being Seen

I'm a chameleon. It's actually a trait associated with my personality type... which is always weird because you're like, "Shut up Meyer's-Briggs! You don't know me!" And Meyer's-Briggs just smiles and pats your head like, "Oh you think you're so special. It's cute."

I'm a chameleon. I like to hide in plain sight. I can have a conversation with ANYONE... and they all feel like we have a ton in common because I adapt and bend and relate.

I learned these skills as the oldest child of two extraordinarily different parents who both have very strong personalities. They are night and day different, and I had to be able to connect to both of them emotionally to feel secure. So I learned how to slip in and out of various facets of my personality to draw them into relationship, to affirm them in ways that made them feel affirmed, and (because I was a bratty teenager too once) to light them up when I felt like being a jerk.

I learned that I can control people by dancing around them, figuring them out and bending myself around them. But, really, isn't that just controlling me? I hustle hard to control how people feel and how they perceive me... but isn't that just controlling me?

I trade my freedom for security. A woefully, self-stealing choice.

P. S. -- If you're freaked out right now that I'm playing mind games on you and vowing never to talk to me again, I do not blame you... but let me tell you this... It's not something I'm proud of. It's something I'm trying to get away from. I long to just be ONE ME. To escape the fear of being seen.

That's really what I wanted to write about today.... the fear of being seen.

The fear of being pegged, pigeon-holed, pre-judged, dismissed as a whatever-fill-in-the-blank.
The fear of not being able to Chameleon and win your love, because you've already categorized me and you know who I am.
The fear of being looked at by a million eyes that have secret thoughts about me that I'll never know and can't control... the fear of being seen.

For the first 26-ish years of my life, there were a few things I vowed I would never be:

#1-I wouldn't ever publicly reveal myself. I didn't want to be dismissed as a self-absorbed brat who thought people gave a rat's ass about my inner workings. Who cares.
For a while a blogged about pretty stuff that I liked. I wrote about theoretical research topics. I wrote about imaginary worlds. But I wouldn't write about myself... I wouldn't submit myself to public scrutiny. I would leave people guessing. That way I could still Chameleon. I could still Hustle for love and affirmation.

#2-I wouldn't ever be One of those Church People... that is a category utterly fraught with pigeon holes and pegs and assumptions. Privately, I've always been very religious. But publicly, I refused to be a typical Jesus person.
It was done in self-defense. My beliefs are full of nuance. I pissed off the Church People because I couldn't walk their straight and narrow line, AND I pissed off the non-religious people because I was religious. For a Love Hustler, this was a terrible place to be. So I vowed I wouldn't ever be a Church Person. While all my elementary school friends were saying, "I'm going to go be a missionary in Africa!" I was saying, "Nope. Not me. I'm going to be a Olympic Karate Master!" ;)

I hope you're laughing now. Look at my life!!!

I'm writing about myself... UH LOT. And I'm writing about Jesus... that's perhaps the most vulnerable place of all. Because I know there are those out there who have now officially dismissed me and will avoid me because I'm One Of Those.

But telling the truth is better than Hustling. Freedom is a truer form of Security than a security manufactured by controlling myself and others.

Which brings me again to Being Seen...

I started writing this blog very quietly. For myself. Now It's not so quiet... there are a LOT of people following along. (And I have to be very conscious to continue to write with freedom and without fear.) AND... I was actually asked to speak at an event at my church... and I did... and I think it was a blessed time... but I was SEEN. Like... with EYE BALLS. Looking at me. EEP.

When I'm behind a computer, I can pretend no one will read and judge and dismiss and scorn. I'm alone in my living room... I can be as dramatic as I want and no one is going to smirk in front of me and make me wince with self-consciousness.

But in front of a crowd... holy. stinking. moly. Suddenly it hit me... I am being SEEN.

If you're not a Hustler, a Fear-er, a Controller, a Perfectionist... you don't know how scary that is.

To be seen.

You can't take it back. There's no "Un-Post" button (which I make heavy use of). There's no edit key. You present your deepest and most intimate thoughts... and there are actual FACES watching you and reacting.

Being seen.

It's terrifying.

And it's beautiful.

How deeply we long to be seen. To be known. To be accepted. To be pursed and recognized in the crowd by someone who loves us anyway.

To be seen... it is perhaps my greatest fear. And my deepest desire.

I expect that this will always be a tension in my life. Hustling for love will always be my stumbling block. Chameleoning will always be my default mode... But I'm learning this: While my heart is crying, "WHAT IF I FALL!!!!???!!!"  What if I'm rejected? What if I'm scorned? What if half the people that hear my words pigeon hole me and dismiss me completely and I can't explain myself? What if I fail?..... The Lord is standing by saying, "My daughter. What if you fly? What if the wings I made for you are enough... and the course you take is the one I prepared for you all along? What if the hearts that don't scorn you are illuminated? What if you're brilliant because you stopped running away from Being Seen."

And, words most powerful and most comforting of all... he is standing by and saying, "My daughter... I see you."

I can hustle for your love. I'm good at it. I may never be able to stop. But I can't hustle for Him.
I can angle for acceptance and love here... but there's a truth that I'm only beginning to grasp: All acceptance and love has already been granted me by Him.

His heart for me is that I walk Secure AND Free as the person he has designed me to be.
Secure and Free. Secure and Free. That's a kickin combo! That's a combo I don't think I can ever achieve for myself. And it starts with Being Seen.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

1000 Ridiculous Dollars and What Happened Next

This morning I come cotton-mouthed and jelly kneed... rattled and confused... thoughtful. Wondering. Surprised. Humbled. Self-conscious. Uncertain. Speechless.

Someone just handed me $1000.00.
Yes. One. Thousand. Doll. Lars.
I did not sneak an extra Zero in there.

And... it's not like it was my grandma or something. It was someone I would say I hardly know. Someone my OWN AGE. In a very similar stage of life. They just... freaking, handed us a grand. Like that. The memo line reads: "Gift". The card says, "Please accept this with Joy."

Joy was not my first emotion, actually.

My first thought was, "There must have been a mistake."
My second thought was, "Nope. I will not accept that. That's ridiculous."
My third thought was, "What the actual heck is going on right now?"

I didn't go straight to Joy.
I wanted to rationalize it. But I couldn't. So I wanted to give it back.
This was undeserved. This was unmerited. That made me very uncomfortable.

In our lives, we often get what we have earned. Sometimes we get less than we think we deserve. Occasionally we feel like we have gotten our full due, but we likely had to work our asses off for it. But NO ONE HANDS YOU A REWARD THIS HUGE FOR NO GOOD REASON.
No one does this. No one. This is not a thing. Nope. Nada. Crazy talk.

Then my heart heard a story... it crept silently into my mind... it rattled me.

You were dead in your trespasses and sins... but God, who is rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead---made us alive. 

By grace... by grace... by grace you have been saved, AND RAISED UP with him, AND SEATED with him in the heavenly places with Jesus Christ. But why? 

So that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing/overwhelming/out-of-bounds riches of his grace in kindness toward us. (Ephesians 2)

Talk about unmerited and undeserved! I wasn't in the dog house for something naughty I did to disappoint. I was in the grave. Yet, he was moved.

He was moved by his great love for me. Why?
He was moved by his great, spilling, powerful passion toward the creature who had no intrinsic beauty, who had done nothing, who could give him nothing, who would cost him everything. Why?
His heart cried out, "I long to show surpassing/overwhelming/out-of-bounds riches of grace to her."

Why? I'm not gonna even lie... it makes me a little uncomfortable.

So often, in the face of so free a gift, so rich a mercy, so great a love, so saturated a kindness... I don't go straight to Joy. First I go to unworthy, unmerited, undeserving, uncomfortable. Then I go to "Why?" And when I can't find a Why, I want to reject it.

But we can't ask why. I mean, we can. Why is a good question. I'm very Pro-Why. But we won't find the answer to the burning Why within the fabric of our own lives. We won't. In a way, we just have to let go of "why" and rejoice. As the card under the stupidly ridiculously over the top $1000.00 check instructed, we just have to "accept this gift with Joy."

We have to let the emotion push up in the back of our throats. We have to let the power of it charge the cells of human kindness and compassion that will fuel our humble walk through this earth. We have to let it galvanize us towards a posture of giving ourselves away. A attitude that says, I can't give myself away fast enough or freely enough or with enough delight... because I was dead. And he loved me. He loved us. We were bound in the slavery of debtor's prison and he poured out heaven's treasure to buy us back... to liberate us... to set us on a free path to live into the fullness of our true selves before him... for no other reason except that it made his heart glad.

There is no Why. There is only Joy.

Before today, I don't know if I've ever experienced so tangible an example of what Unmerited Favor feels like. It humbles my heart so dramatically it's hard for me to explain. It even stings a little. It brings the Gospel into focus. It inspires me to want to live Up And Into grace. To not waste life. To not waste the gift. To touch others with the Touchedness I have been touched by.

But ultimately... I don't think I could ever live up to a gift that big. Whatever I do with my life could never equal what He did with His. Whatever I do with the dollars could never be as significant as the story that it created in my heart. So there is only Joy.

I'm going to resist my first impulses to deserve or to reject. I could never deserve. And it's only my pride that would reject. I'm going to receive. I'm going to receive Grace with Joy.

Receive grace with Joy, friends. The richest treasure is held out to us, and there are a lot of Whys that can get in the way. There's a lot of pride, logic, knowledge, fear, that can cloud the way to a liberated life of love... but there it is. Free gift. If you can accept the ridiculous gift with Ridiculous Joy, how might that Joy revolutionize and galvanize your life? It could change the world.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Messy Business of Hope

My baby boy is cutting teeth.  (Wait. Stop. Don't bail on me now. It gets better, I promise.)

He is snotty and angry. He is aching and swollen. He rubs his face with his little baby fists and tries to scrape the pain away with his fingers. He wakes up in the night, howling in confused rage.
He doesn't understand his pain. Where is it coming from? Why? What can he do about it?

We are just like this little one in the world.

The past few weeks I have been angry and confused, hurting and bruised, waking in the night with a heart aching, and swatting around desperately at the pain in the world that I don't understand and don't know how to fix.

I see the violence and it disturbs me. Part of me longs to respond with a violence of my own. Part of me longs to become a radical pacifist taking every stand against violence like some kind of Buddhist Nun in jeans. I'm just punching at the air. I'm swatting at the ache with hands too powerless to take it all away.

I yearn to see a more beautiful version of our human experienced lived out. I would hazard a strong statement here: We all do. Pacifists and terrorists. Activists and seclusionists. Presidents and preschoolers. Mommies and militaries. No matter who we are. No matter how big or small.

And we all have theories about how to make the more beautiful human experience happen. Humans have good intentions. We are yearners and fixers. We want to see the More Excellent Earth that lives in our minds. Where pain stops. Where harmony makes us beautiful with one another. We'll even kill for it. Because the pain of the broken life is more than we can bear.

That's why terrorists shoot.

That's why monks pray.

That's why wars are waged.

That's why quilts are stitched by quiet fingers at home.

Because we want a more beautiful world. It lives in our minds and we believe we can bring it out from the shadows by our actions. The problem is, none of us can agree on what The Beautiful World looks like or how to get there.

We are like my teething baby... we are aching and we don't understand the source.
We are doing everything we can to stop it.
We are all coming up short.
And sometimes we just want to give up, go numb, close our eyes, stop our hearts.

Advent is a season that exhorts us toward hope. It calls out to us with a loud voice: "The world you yearn for is NOT FICTION." It tells us about a future where, "Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth" (Luke 3:5). Where the tumultuous and jagged imperfections of our world are eased into harmony.

Two things for you....

#1 Don't give up hope. Don't abandon your vision of the More Beautiful World. Hope. Hope hard. Hope long. Hope however you can hope and do not stop hoping. Help is coming.

#2 Rest. Don't fret. When you yearn to see a More Beautiful World, acknowledge that it is the space inside you that compasses you toward God's good heart. He yearns for the same thing. He yearns more desperately and more constantly than you. The space in you that comes up with solutions to take away the pain (for yourself, for your family, for your city, for your nation, for the world) is the heart of God who desires nothing more than a healed and beautiful world. It is only by his mercy and love that he waits another day to make The More Beautiful World true.

When you long to hate the evil people who kill, pray for them that their eyes will be opened to the answers they seek. That in their desperate quest to bring about the More Beautiful World, they would find the Most Beautiful Way.

We are like teething babies. We swat desperately at pain we don't understand. But hope and rest, friends, because we have been promised the answer we seek. The solution to our longing. The blue-print for the Better. It's not an empty dream. It's a master plan. Jesus gave everything (his divinity, his dignity, his life) to make it a feasible reality.

If you don't understand that yet... date Jesus and see. Peek at his game plan and test the waters. You don't have to buy in before you've checked out the goods. Look in and see who he is... He is a life giver, a mission enabler, a dream inspirer, a world restorer, an identity empowerer, a hope satisfier. His way toward The More Beautiful World is beautiful.

You don't have to bat blindly at pain any more. There is light shining in the darkness, showing the way through. Showing the way to mend what is broken. When you are fretful and aching in agony, longing to escape the pain, snotty and unhappy like the baby cutting teeth... reach out and take hold of Hopeful Rest. Assured. Calm. The More Beautiful World is coming.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Truth About Marriage

Some days it is just oh so clear why serial divorce is a thing.

It's easier to fall in love than it is to stay in love.

The rewards of falling in love are like fizzy beverages... tingling and fresh. They go down smooth and leave you heady and breathless.

The rewards of staying in love are different. A bit heavy. They're the matching scars you bear from healing side by side. Tinged with salt and grit and bound up wounds and the rust stains of iron wills that say, "I'm here. I'm not leaving." Less glamorous. More gracious.

Falling in love is full of possibility and bravery and chance and newness. No one has yet been disappointed. No one has failed for the 100th time. Faith may have been dashed once, but it hasn't yet been dashed into oblivion over and over against the rocks of unchangeable human nature and stubbornness. He hasn't been beaten by cruel life. She hasn't been soured by frustrated aspirations. All is hope.

Oh, but staying in love... Staying in love is a long, slow road where possibility often disappoints, and hope often tarnishes under trials. Where life's brutality molds hopers into something they never planned to be. Where we become so accustomed to the things we love about each other that we take them for granted, and only the things that drive us bonkers seem to shine above the monotony of daily living... in a tiny house with two babies... and only one microscopic bathroom.

I'm tired of newly married people saying, "Oh, marriage isn't hard! We're different. We're better matched. We beat the odds." (I said it myself even just a few years ago.) Shut up. In the scheme of a 60 year relationship, you practically just glanced at each other. You're making those who have been on this road much longer than you feel sick. What loss have you overcome? What sleepless nights? What broken hearts? What frustrated careers? What abysmal loss of identity? What loss of life or health or dreams? Of course your marriage isn't hard. You barely know each other. Suffer together, and then talk. Feel yourself changed from the fresh dreamer into the weary parent. Apologize and promise for the 1000th time.

I'm so tired. Tired of trying and never being enough. Tired of reaching for love. Tired of giving. Tired of receiving. Tired of things getting lost in translation. I'm tired of being myself. I don't want to be the messy, complicated, creative, wild-spirited person that I am. I'd rather be clean-lined, simple, smooth. That's what my husband says he wants. He wants meat and potatoes on the table and no drama.

Why did he marry me? I didn't hide my true nature. I was honest. I pulled no punches. I've always been a roiling, wind-whipped sea. If his heart's desire is a glassy lake, why me?

Marriage is not ours. We think that we create it. We think that we sustain it. No. Marriage is God's mission. He brings us together. Sometimes we sail, wing to wing and oar to oar. Sometimes we chafe like iron sharpening iron.

My husband does not need a glassy sea. He needs me.

I do not need a rushing river. I need the heavy oaken roots of the anchored tree, slowing the churning water of my soul into slower pools and eddies.

I can never sweep him away.
He can never stop me.
There will always be friction there.

We hurt each other often. It is natural that sometimes we would both wish to walk away. We are very different, he and I. As we pull against each other, we create a certain balance in the middle. God has given us to each other. His wisdom is clear. But oh how the pulling aches me today.

Here's the grace:  It isn't about being the perfect wife or husband. Perfect was never part of the equation. Our wobbling souls are exactly what our spouse needs. Their pitching decks are exactly where our feet should be planted. This is the way we grow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Where's Christ in Your Kvetching Christmas?

I know, I know... we haven't had Thanksgiving yet, but the Christmas Kvetching has already begun... so... this post is happening.

We're entering the season of grumpy Christians fighting tooth and nail to keep the Christ in a long-ago-commercialized Christmas. My head is there with you, Grumpy Christians, but my heart isn't in it. And here's why: Christ came to establish a kingdom in our hearts, not on our Starbucks cups.

The people who are campaigning to overturn the secularization of Christmas are operating from a good-hearted place. They're fighting for Jesus. They're holding him up. Loud and proud. These people love their Lord. They see people editing him out of history and they get riled. I would hazard to guess that Jesus does not scorn this love and fidelity, but I would also hazard to guess that he would rather to see their love lived out in a different way.... because his heart is always for the lost sheep. His word tells us that when the 99 are in the fold, and he is running out into the night for that one lamb still wandering in the dark.

Dear Christians, I want to challenge you to pick your battles by a new rubric: Does this help a lost and watching world see Jesus the way he wants to be seen?

If all you want is for the world to see Jesus, then your grousing is, technically, accomplishing that. Congratulations. But does the Jesus you're holding up really reflect the way he represented himself to the world?

It's not that hard to see Jesus in the world today, but are we understanding his heart?

Dear Christians, I repeat... Help a lost and watching world to see Jesus the way he would show himself to them.

The holidays are a great time for that. So get on it. But it's not going to look like the contentious, media-driven, embattled thing that it often becomes. That's too easy. It's easy to dig trenches and throw hand grenades. It's harder to walk across the field and understand your opponent. This doesn't have to mean compromise in your own heart. It doesn't mean surrender. But it does mean service. It does mean sacrifice. It does mean submitting yourself to one another, trying not to be a stumbling block for the weak, choosing the high road.

Put Christ in your Christmas, Church, by understanding and living out Christ in your hearts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Here Come the Holidays... Run!

The season of EXTRAS you never had margin for in the first place is galloping upon us.

I'm already feeling its effects.

Halloween costumes.

They're so fun. I LOVE Halloween. But, you know, you have to either make them yourself by the sweat of your brow, or work overtime to pay for Walmart polyester confections, lovingly sewn by children in Chinese sweat shops. Trade offs. Either way, there will be sweat.

As a kid, I thought that holiday joy sprang fully formed from the pure magical force of the season. Christmas came trotting into the calendar year with treats and twinkles automatically grafted into its innate species. Magic was not created. It simply rippled out from... from... somewhere.

And then I Adulted. And I realized--to my great woe--that holiday magic, no matter the season, is created by an elite fighting force of holiday cheer known as MOMMIES. (Which probably stands for "Makers Of MerriMent In Excruciating Situations".)

Holidays are no longer the effortless experience of magic moments that pop up spontaneously like fizzy bubbles in soda. Costumes must be made. Meals must be plotted and budgeted for. Presents must be sleuthed with screaming toddlers in tow and then shipped through angry postal workers who hate their lives. It's fun... but it's less fun than someone else doing it.

Today I'm just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Chronic fatigue and severe back pain is getting me down. (Saw the chiro. Taking vitamins. Working on it.) The house has descended into deep mess. My 8 week workout quest culminated in an inglorious 1 pound lost. My husband is working 5 twelve hour days in a row, and the only night he has off, he is going out for guy's night. Plus, to top it all off, the sermon on Sunday was about how we should be sacrificing so we can support the work of the gospel and I'm like, "I don't want to give up the $20 a month I spend on Chick-fil-A!!!!! It is desperate times up in here!! Jesus take the wheel... but not my CFA money!!"

And in the midst of it all I'm supposed to make Halloween costumes.

Then I'm hosting house guests until the end of the year... so I guess I'd better start planning Thanksgiving and Christmas ahead of time.

Could we just designate an official Holiday Planner to take over for the rest of us? When it's our year, we promise we'll rock it out. When it's your year, we'll be so thankful!! We can restore the magic of the holidays. And sanity! And liberty and justice for all!

But seriously though.... I know that the secret is to simplify expectations. But I also want to craft magical memories for the kids and myself. The struggle.

I have no answers... only this: While your head is spinning around for the next three months, while you're trying to do too much in too little time, while you're striving to make magic happen in un-magical circumstances... remember that true magic is in rest. Your rest. Their rest. His rest. Our rest.

Your children don't want perfection... they want you to smile and shrug and say "Sure. Let's do hot chocolate and cereal for dinner."

Your husband doesn't need a better turkey with six homemade sides all hot at once... he needs a quiet moment on the sofa looking into the eyes he married... being distracted by the avocado that's probably smeared on your face from lunch.

Your mother in law doesn't need the perfect pair of hand knit socks... she needs a note that says, "Thank you for raising this man that is now my husband. He aint perfect, but dude sticks with. Bless you. He wipes his own butt and pulls his pants up by himself, so... you're a radical success in my eyes."

The tree doesn't have to glitter with perfectly color coordinated ornaments... it's really just an opportunity to come together and reflect on our story together.

The costumes don't need to win Project Runway Neighborhood Edition... they just need to not fall off. For an hour. Maybe less.

If all else fails... I say cut a head hole in a paper bag and go as a sack of groceries.

The meal doesn't need to be bloggable.... just edible.

Put down the iPhone & back away from the Pinterest.

This is going to be a rough couple months, no matter how you slice it... but the thing that will make it the best holiday ever for you, for them, for us... is grace.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Giving Depression the Slip

Depression is a sneaky ass hat. Before it ever swallows your mind and your heart, it spends months biting at your heels and breaking down your defenses.

It wraps you up in its arms and rocks you. You start to feel sleepy, so sleepy, because everything is exhausting. Adulting and Moming and Wifeing and Friending and EXERCISING OMG is hard.

Hopelessness starts to seem like a way out... like giving up would be easier than this hamster wheel. Hopelessness starts to look almost like a hope. Quit now. It's not worth the fight. Sleep it off.

Once depression has you in that tempting warm embrace, it squeezes!
Tired? Ha! Well, now you can't sleep.

It's like the hypnotists from old fashioned movies with their swaying pocket watches.... "Yooou're getting sleeeeepy..... SUCKA!!" And then the hypnotist punches you in the throat.

And since it has you all wrapped up, and weary-so-weary... your hands are tied. You are in no position to be reaching out for help. When you should be flailing and screaming, "I'm drowning!!!!" depression has you muffled and too exhausted to move. Or ashamed. "Again? I can't be that one putz who is a mess again. I'm a waste of oxygen."

There's only one way out of depression quicksand.....

You have to lay on your back and float to the top. It's this delicate balance between intentional/working rest, and gentle/persistent hopefulness.

You have to actively disbelieve the lie that giving up would be getting a break.

You have to pull your puffy eyes open a little wider, look depression in the face, and say "I don't believe you. You're not my answer. You don't own me." Then take a nap. A real one.

You can't claw your way out of this mess. That would be more exhausting. That would use up more of your finite resources and leave you gasping.

You have to rest your way out of depression.

You have to mercy your way out of depression.

But most importantly, you have to hope your way out of depression. Not a clawing, snatching hope that grabs desperately for anything and holds on with a death grip. Not Donald Trump "Make America Great Again" hope. Eck!! A quiet, patient hope that says, "I'm rising. I'm rising to the top of this. Maybe slowly... like rising through molasses, but the fresh air is coming. It's up there. We're getting closer every day."

Depression tells you, your arms are too heavy to lift. If you can lift them, let them float up to pray a prayer of release. "Father of Light, you see me, and I am burdened. But if I can keep peering through fog and spot light, I can keep moving forward. Do not let me be swallowed by the fog."

Then drop your arms and believe that rest is for you. Let his arms do the heavy lifting. The lifting of judgement. The lifting of criticism. The lifting of Not Enough. You choose hope. And let the Lord fling away those demons.

It's a hard balance. And your balance is off. So that doesn't help. But limping lambs are the strongest ones... they stagger on rocky ground, while others skip on an easier road. They haul their battered hides five feet, while others have run a mile. But when they reach the Shepherd's green pastures, they know better than any other how green the grass is here. Their struggles make them thankful. And beautiful. And wise.

This is your journey. You can do it. One moment, one hour, one day, one week... you can slip out of depressions grip and rest.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Breathing Life into the Future

Today I wrote an email and I was so happy with it because it held the genuineness of my own voice telling the truth. It had that tone that I feel like I've lost touch with for a few weeks.

I've lost my confidence recently. I have 6 unpublished posts lined up because I can't grasp the confidence to put them out there. They don't feel right. My voice seems to lack it's ring of power. But that email had the things I want to tell the world in it.  So I'm cheating and posting part of it here. (I hope the dear sweet soul I wrote it to doesn't mind.)


I was sitting on the floor nursing and staring out the window... just thinking. What probably draws me to writing is the desire to last. Life is just so short. So much of what we do is just undone or disappears. But if we write.... it lasts. Much longer. Longer than dishes or projects or anything. I don't think about this while I am writing.... but when I think "Why am I so obsessed with this?" I think that's the best answer I can find. Because it lasts.

This is part of the beauty of children too... I live beyond myself. Not in a selfish way. Not that I have to push my life into theirs... or that I use their lives to define mine and give it meaning... I just know that my life means more than serving my own dreams. I'm blowing a kiss of life into the future. No matter what scars I leave on my children (because, of course, I will) they will know that they are brightly, deeply, delightedly loved. They know that they can screw up and be loved, flourish and be loved, hate me and be loved, love me and be loved. They know they can stagger out into the world and stagger home again where they are loved. I really believe that this kind of unconditional love can shape history. I know that love can cover over a multitude of sins. I love the whole world while loving my kids well. 

I know you are not sure about having kids. I wasn't sure how to answer your searching questions before... I've thought about it... I wouldn't ever try to talk anyone into having kids or out of having kids. That's up to you and the universe. All i can say is that it is an act that makes you more human, more spiritual, more whole than any other act. It grounds you to the earth and spirits you into the heavens. It puts you in touch with your animal instincts and drives you to a blind faith more genuine than you ever imagined. 

People don't want to have children for many reasons that I deeply respect.... especially not being an especially child-goo-goo-ga-ga-loving person myself. But I have looked at Eames in the middle of his most difficult times and said, through tears and depression and everything, "I would go through the worst of this 1000 times just to be your mother again." There's magic there.

Don't make a choice "Yes" or "No" about having children. Just take what comes and look for the magic. 

Wishing you all the love. Lots and lots of love! Twinkling love. Earthy love. You have a great capacity for love. Mwah.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Change the World Like a Girl

Lemme talk about this girl who is rocking my world right now.

She's got a weird name. "Thermuthis." Yes, I kid you not.
Or maybe "Hatshepsut." Also weird.
The scholarship is a little spotty on exactly who she was, but you probably know her as "Pharaoh's Daughter." You got it: the one in the Bible.

Here's how the story goes:
Pharaoh wanted to curb the growing numbers of Israelites living in the land of Egypt, so he ordered the newborn sons to be killed. Not too crazy in those times. One mama hid her baby in a basket in the river to keep it alive. The baby was found by... dun dun da... Pharaoh's Daughter. And she decides to keep it. That baby grows up to be the liberator of Israel.

Real Talk:
Did you ever read this story and kind of think she sounds like a bimbo? Spoiled little rich girl? Legally blonde? "Oo look! A baby in a basket! Let's play house. I'll be the mommy & we'll keep this tiny human for a pet! Goody!"
That's just kind of how I always thought about her. She seemed so naive and clueless to me. Like, do you even know what it takes to raise a baby?!

Driving around a few days ago, I was thinking about Pharaoh's Daughter--- (dude... I can't do this any more... she needs a name... let's call her Hatty!)

I was thinking about Hatty... and I realized, wait, this girl wasn't just a middle school airhead who liked collecting cute stuff she found on the side of the road... she actually had some serious guts.

For starters.... She knew exactly what her dad was up to.
How do I know? Because the title given to her "PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER" didn't just refer to "one of Pharaoh's Daughters" but held a weight of distinction. She was likely his eldest and in line for the throne (or, rather, her son would have been Pharaoh... not her, 'cause she was a girl). Which meant, she would have been educated and in the loop about the political goings-ons of the day. She was in the know. Groomed for leadership. No bimbo.

And.... she knew exactly what kind of baby she had found.
She even says in scripture, "Hey! It's a Hebrew baby."
(How did she know? It's an anatomy thing. Wink wink.)
But even though she knew that this baby represented everything her dad hated as well as a direct challenge to her own political/social/familial security... she made a radical choice. To adopt him.

Here's a girl who is deciding her own politics, even though they fly right in the face of her family's beliefs and interests.
Here is a girl who is willing to give up her political power (her princess' birth right) to a foreigner that she found in a swamp (by calling him her son) in order to save a life.
Here's a girl who is taking a stand for social justice.
Here's a girl who is saying, "My family, my power, my position opposes everything about your life... but I'll risk the scorn, I'll risk the political jeopardy, I'll risk the wrath of Pharaoh... to do the right thing."
Here's a girl who is saying, "I can't save them all... but I can save this one."

Wow, Hatty. What a strong woman!

Suddenly I'm seeing this girl in a whole new light... and here's what I'm learning:

We can't fix it all... but we can do what's in front of us with integrity and, in doing so, completely change the world. Like... the whole world. Boom. Just like that.

If we make the choice to protect the innocent, uphold the oppressed, show compassion to the needy, put our own reputations on the line for the discarded.... we can literally change the course of history. It just takes guts and one small step in the right direction. Like Hatty.

We may never see it. It was 80 years later that the abandoned baby in the bullrushes came back to Egypt as Moses the Liberator... but none of that story would have happened without Hatty's ballsy faithfulness. Without Hatty's selfless love of human life, no matter what race, religion, color, politics, or power. Without Hatty's heart.

Even in a time in history when women were not given nearly as much power as they are today, Hatty's simple act wildly reshaped the entire fabric of history. It doesn't take power, fame, or platform. It doesn't require resources or recognition. You can do it now. You can start today.

To change the world, we only need Hatty's Heart.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Own Your Exact Life, Sisters

“Take all the hard parts—the failure, the losses, the wounds— and give them to Jesus for glory. He makes magic with those, I tell you. Those scars are a gift; they say, “See, I’ve been there, and here I am still standing and you will too.” They become badges of honor, agents of healing.”
- Jen Hatmaker, For The Love

Sometimes it hits me..... There’s a little bit of tragedy in all the brilliant, educated, powerful women who have been dragged out of their passions and squeezed into motherhood. 

I’m just being honest.

All their lives, they've practiced making their dreams come true. They are teachers, authors, artists, musicians, counselors, movers and shakers. And now they clean up the same messes, day in and day out. The meal messes. The legos. The pee pee sheets. The bath water. The smeared food.

Even if they’re tackling their corner with bravery and strength, it’s just a little sad, isn’t it? 

Sometimes I think it's worth saying out loud. It's worth stopping to recognize that there's a deep cost to the work we do here.

There’s also overwhelming beauty.
Wise words once taught us, “Greater love has no one than this, that a person should lay down her life for her friends.” For our children, we undoubtedly lay our lives down. Daily. 

We lose ourselves. We give up our dreams. We give up sleep and physical beauty and social recognition and freedom. We give up single-minded focus, task oriented behaviors, and showers. We give up simplicity. But we haven’t given up! 

Are we writing our own tickets to the future? Picturing it and making it happen? Seeing the world, putting it all out there, leaning in? No... at least for a season, no.
But how totally ballsy is it to have your first dreams taken away, and just not give up?
To accept that your dreams were smashed and see it as a redirection not an end. To take a deep breath, let it go, maybe grieve a little, and then start telling a new story. Holy crap guys! [Insert corny and obligatory phoenix-rising-from-ashes references here. ;) ] It’s beautiful.

Being determined to only have one version of your life may rob you of the magical experience of turning scars into praise songs. Trials into testimonies. Loss into limping leadership. Hurt into heroism. 

Look at all those women out there… the ones that “used to be” job titles and labels... now they don't have the security of a label and they do this raw, organic, natural work of birthing and preparing they next generations of the world... they do motherhood. Quietly. Invisibly. Their rewards are jelly kisses and holding sleep-breathing angels with floppy miniature bodies just five more minutes. Look at all the sparkling intelligence and leadership there. Has she wasted her life? No. Look at the bravery. She has allowed herself to be humbled, but not crushed. Knocked down, but not destroyed. She will rise up with greater strength, because she knows that nothing (no loss of identity, no pedantic purpose, no stooping low) can take away her worth and her guts.  

It’s a beautiful coincidence in the English language (or iiiiiiis it?) that “Testimony” begins with “Test.” This is it, ladies. This season of life is our Test. Allow it to make you richer, not thinner. Warmer, not colder. More, not less. Let it add to your character rather than destroy your dreams. This is not a detour, but an integral formation of fibers in the tapestry of your life and the tome of your story.

If you will hold loosely to that one perfect vision you had of who you are, the Lord will reveal that you are much more than you ever imagined. 

How Do You Find The Time?

I've been taking a mini hiatus from my weekly postings here to throw my efforts into finishing my first novel!!!!!!!! (Queue up the HALLELUJAH CHORUS. This has been a long time coming.)
All that just takes all the mental space I can spare.

But I wanted to write a quick and sloppy note to say:

People ask me all the time how I find the time to write while also running the motherhood ship.
There is often a hint of jealousy there.
Maybe a splash of self-deprecation.
Always a tiny sadness... a loss.

Motherhood costs us a lot of things. One of them can be the opportunity to engage in meaningful work outside of motherhood. Because, really, running the Home Show is beyond a full time job. Beyond.

We've heard it all before: The "I Can Do It All" thing is a lie. It is. But I still struggle to realize it. It's like the photoshopped supermodel. Even if her picture isn't telling me the whole truth, I still see the ideal represented and I want THAT.

So let me tell you the truth about my life... when I have a moment to spare between diapers and dirty sheets, meals and messes and hungry mouths, spills and errands and cooking and booboos... I don't clean up the trails we've left behind. I rush to my notebook and scribble.

And when the nap times come... I don't take my quiet hours to restore order. I read. I scribble.

My. House. Is. Always. A. Mess.

Which bothers me HUGELY because I am actually really OCD somewhere on the inside. But I can't. I just can't. There aren't enough hours to be the perfect housekeeper, the perfect mother, AND the creator that my Creator has made me to be.

In one of my all time favorite books (Where'd You Go Bernadette) the main character (who used to be a McArthur Genius Award Recipient for architecture) has developed an anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, a serious case of the weirdness, and an inability to accomplish anything at all following the loss of a child, the failure of a pivotal project, the birth of a rainbow baby, and the overwhelming sense of needing to be a good mother.

She writes endless letters to her former mentor spilling out loads of her pain and confusion (cloaking it all in goofiness and funny stories)... and her mentor writes her a one line letter in response.

"People like you must create. If you don't create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society."

That's me.

I have to create.
If I don't create, my soul curls in on itself and crumbles like a leaf baked in the sun.

It hurts me to live in a messy house. It irks me that I'm still 20lbs over weight. It plagues me that I don't plan and create lovely dinners of the caliber my mother-in-law raised my dear husband on.

But I have to create.
So I do.

If you ever, for a moment, thought, "Geez, she must be so diligent and energetic. She has something figured out that I don't." just.... laugh. Just laugh at yourself. That's hilarious. I'm the worst and weakest and the most disastrous, I think. But I need to create. God made me this way. So I have to compromise to walk my walk.

That's all.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Spanx of the Kingdom

Moms are like the Spanx of the Kingdom. They are stretched, poked, tugged, a pulled in a million directions endlessly. They hold everything together and they always bounce back.

All this bouncing around like a rubber ball makes me dizzy. Pinging from crisis manager, to counselor, to disciplinarian, to nurse, to fountain of milky life, to faith healer, to personal chef, to housemaid, to encyclopedia of all knowledge related to the question 'Why?'... I've got whiplash!

Let alone my also-necessary roll as sultry bedroom temptress, career coach, and cute-funny-spunky-ambitious college-cool girl he married.

Oh, and social activist, welcomer and lover of newbies at church, filler of volunteer positions, bringer of meals to the suffering, taker-on-er of tasks to support the community.

Honestly... ok, honestly... I feel the bounce going out of my rubber where it is meeting the road.

I know what bouncing back looks like. The theory of bounce mechanics is downloaded into my motherboard. The science of balance theory is all recorded in my mainframe. Yes, I'm still operating in a bouncy way... but I'm going off of muscle memory here. And I'm getting motion sickness from the endless changing of hats. The swirling swapping of rolls has me feeling a little disconnected from what it feels like to just be me without anyone asking me for anything.

As the Spanx, I feel like I'm holding it all in, but my roll is to be invisible so the whole package can go on functioning. The dress is the main event. The family, the community, the world. They're the jam. I'm just the Spanx. When I try to look inside to see what makes me ME, sometimes all I see is everyone else I'm holding.

Yeah, I know, there's a way in which we are defined by Our People. I feel that. But... but... I don't know... What's my story? It's a question I keep asking. For better or worse. And the real question I'm asking is, Can my story be more than this? I wish it was more than this.

Aaaaaand..... dang it. Ok. God is sneaky..... Literally in the exact moment that I'm writing this, my son's movie song playlist is rolling on youtube, and this song came on:
"Look At Your Life Through Heaven's Eyes"

A single thread in a tapestry, though its color brightly shines, can never see its purpose in the pattern of the grand design.
And the stone that sits on the very top of the mountain's mighty face, does it think it's more important than the stones that form the base?

So how can you see what your life is worth, Or where your value lies?
You can never see through the eyes of man. You must look at your life, look at your life through heaven's eyes

A lake of gold in the desert sand is less than a cool fresh spring
And to one lost sheep, a shepherd boy is greater than the richest king
If a man lose everything he owns, has he truly lost his worth?
Or is it the beginning of a new and brighter birth?

So how do you measure the worth of a man? In wealth or strength or size?
In how much he gained or how much he gave?
The answer will come. The answer will come to him who tries to look at his life through heaven's eyes

And that's why we share all we have with you, though there's little to be found
When all you've got is nothing, there's a lot to go around
No life can escape being blown about by the winds of change and chance
And though you'll never know all the steps, you must learn to join the dance.

So how do you judge what a man is worth?
By what he builds or buys?
You can never see with your eyes on earth
Look through heaven's eyes.

Look at your life. Look at your life. Look at your life through heaven's eyes

Ok. I see it.
I can't own it today.
Today the bouncing back, the Spanxing, the hat swapping, the being-all-things-to-all-my-people has me feeling empty and meaningless and so so weary. But I see it. It's hazy... but I can see my life through heaven's eyes. I see the beauty somewhere under all the shit. I'm going to keep looking back to that until I've got the strength to take hold of it for myself.

I don't know where you are... maybe you're walking strong in your roll. Maybe the bounce has gone straight out of you. Maybe you're somewhere in between, holding it together, but feeling your elasticity beginning to strain. Here is what I can leave you with, no matter where you are: You are not invisible.

Your deep efforts are not unseen.
Our universal King has eyes for our hour by hour struggles. He is seeing the beauty when we can't even detect a hint of it. He's loving us when we can't love ourselves even a little bit. Do we always feel it? No. We can only try to slow our roll, listen to the part of ourselves that's saying, 'Stop, I'm not enough. I can't rise to meet this day anymore' and try to feel forward in the dark for heaven's eyes.

That's the true measure of bouncing back, right?
Not to keep muscling through, running on fumes... but to lean on a better strength, tap into a deeper source, look at our little staggering with the eyes of blessing that see value where we see none.

My feelings about this day haven't changed... yet. But I guess my goal has. I'm not going to try to bounce back, hold it together, wear the right hat. I'm going to try to look at myself with the mercy and love of heaven's eyes.

I'm going to let Jesus be the Spanx of the Kingdom. Not me.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Help. I'm in Overdrive. Again.

How many "speeds" does a car have? I don't know. Do cars have speeds? Or just bikes?

Anyway... I only have two speeds: Working my ass off. And exhausted.

Leaning in with everything I've got, and laying on the couch nursing myself back to leaning in with everything I've got.

I have to force myself into a "downshifted" mental space. (See... I know a little bit! 'Cause... my sister drives a stick shift, so I don't have to.) Like, physically say, relax your face... pull back into a calm frame of mind... decrease your heart rate... let's take this slow.

Is this normal???

How many speeds do you have?

What is your most natural pace?

I feel like other people are so much better at treating life like an endurance race instead of a series of sprints. Having kids has forced me to get better at this. Motherhood is a ruthlessly daily task. Endlessly repetitive and either mind-numbingly boring or utterly over-stimulating and nerve-jarring. Taking the slow, deliberate pace... chasing a horizon that is two hours ahead instead of two years ahead... is brutal for me. It's not my natural mode at all. But I know that it is vital to my health to learn how to operate in a more metered middle ground.

Any tips for me?

Basically, could you just write this blog post for me? Thaddad be greeeaat. Thanks.

Your's Truly --

Going A Million Miles An Hour. Or Stopped.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Love is Utterly Contagious

She stood on the side of the road with a cardboard sign. She couldn't have been more than 20. She held herself humbly and very still. "Homeless Female. Anything Helps."

I bought her trail mix, gummy vitamins, and sunscreen chapstick. They seemed like good gifts for the street. But as I gave them over, I felt sick with the smallness of it.

Usually the homeless are men or older women and I--young and small--don't feel comfortable doing more than handing them some object to fill a need, giving a humanizing smile and kind word, and moving on. But I could see myself in her. I wanted to scoop her in my arms, bring her home with me like a cat nobody wanted, and make sure she was safe.

I drove home.

There is an agonizing ache in my heart that is new. Before I cracked myself open to loving kindness, the ache was dull. Now it cries furiously. It weeps that I am weak and cannot do enough. It squirms uncomfortably in the skin it has been given.
Before I turned up the audio on my heart of compassion, I could feel innocent. I could feel exempt. It could be someone else's problem. It is easy to find reasons to do nothing. Doing nothing maintains the status quo. Doing nothing protects my position as someone who has worked hard and earned my place in this world, looking down on the stupid decision makers, the rebels, the freaks. But crack open that window to compassion, and the cry of your heart will erupt! It is punishing and hard.

The temptation is to run from the discomfort, the friction, the dissonance.

Inside that tense space between "I did what I could" and "I can't do enough" is a lot of fear that makes us want to close the door and go back to the silence of doing nothing.

Can we agree to be conflicted and press on? What else can we do?
Let's try not to overthink.
Let's do it... whatever it is... no matter how small.

None of it is enough.

But love adds up.

One man convicted me to give willingly to the homeless whenever I can. A Buddhist Monk in a documentary film. Throughout the movie, whenever he passed anyone asking for money, he gave it to them. ALL of them. Even if there were 8 in a row... clink, clink, clink... in when his money into the cups. He never passed an open palm without pressing something into it. No questions. No judgements. No weighing of the pros and cons.

Love like that could change the world. It changed mine.

Even if it wasn't "enough", his act said: "I see you. I will bend my path toward yours and bend--however briefly--to meet you where you are." Seeing that demonstrated so simply radically changed the way I move through this world.

So I started acting on it... one by one... giving what I was able, when I was able. When I saw a need, I automatically assume that the Lord has called me to help meet it.

My husband started to notice.
Then he started to give.
I bet people at his work will begin to notice his giving, and then maybe they will begin to show love to the low also...

Because love is utterly contagious.
It has to be... because we can't do enough on our own. But we can do enough together.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Word for Mom’s Who Can’t Even With More Words

((This is more of a book chapter than a blog post, but I figured I'll post it anyway.))

In the mid 90s, my parents very hesitantly agreed to let me watch Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” with the boobyliscious Esmerelda and the very negative portrayal of authority figures. Scandal. (I was the firstborn. Every decision was a major thing. Pocahontas almost broke up the family, bless her heart.)

I remember getting chills and misty eyes when Quasimodo swoops down, grabs up the helpless Esmerelda who is being burned at the stake for being a witch (wow, Disney, dark), escapes to the roof of the towering church, throws up his hands, and cries out “Sanctuary! Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” And just like that, the helpless Esmerelda in her sweeping white dress is free. She isn’t pursued any more. She’s out of danger. The mob affirms the cry of “Sanctuary!” that Quasimodo has claimed for her, and Esmerelda checks off another box on her nine lives.

Writing this, I’m hiding behind the vending machines at the YMCA. My kids are in child watch. (I take my 2 hours a day of “free” babysitting very seriously.) For the first time in several high-stress days, I’m alone. On the floor. I haven’t seen another person in 20 minutes. It is heaven. If I sat in the locker room, the old ladies would want to talk to me about their grandchildren, and I just can’t. I can’t even with the grandchildren right now. So right here, right now, I’m claiming this cold patch of blue linoleum behind the over-priced snacks as my sanctuary. I’m throwing up my hands and crying, “Jesus meet me here. On the floor. Next to that dead moth. With Iggy Azalea pumping through the walls from the step aerobics class down the hall. Sanctuary!” And just like that, this is holy ground. And he meets me.

When I’m burdened and tired beyond reason, well-meaning Christians often ask me, “Well have you spent time in the Word, honey? I’m always a mess when I don’t spend time in the Word.” 

Their intentions are good. So good. Hearts of gold, those people. They know from experience that mom-life is like a bowl with a hole; constantly draining the best out of us. They know my life is an eternal one-drop-in-three-drops-out cycle with very few sources of rejuvenation to keep that bowl from going dry. They see I’m running low. They want my cup to run over. They know Jesus is sweet, so they want me to get filled up with Jesus. The only way they know how to tell me to do it is to shove this book we like to call The Word at me.

This morning a helpful little devotion written for moms suggested that I wake up before my children and spent an hour pondering The Word. 

Seeing as I was up late trying to reconnect with my busy husband, tended the needs of an angry, snotty, teething baby every two hours all night long, and was ultimately foisted out of bed for the day at 6:30 by my toddler… this suggestion pretty much just made me want to stab the book in the eyeballs.

Gosh, yall, it’s not that I don’t want to spend some quiet and uninterrupted time in The Word. It would be great to be filled instead of drained like a leaky lady boat, but there ain’t no way I’m waking up at 5 a.m. If I got up at 5:00 a.m., it wouldn’t matter if the Lord Jesus himself appeared. I would be too sleepy to notice. Mornings make me ragey and delirious at the best of times. Don’t speak to me of giving up more sleep. I will loose my mama marbles.

Internally, I churned and fumed over this suggestion as I went through the morning routine of changing all the butts, feeding all the mouths, wiping down all the insanely mucky hands, wiping all the butts again, and redressing the squirming screaming bodies who don’t seem to realize that this happens every day whether they like it or not. A few hours later I finally had everyone strapped into car seats and we were on our way to the YMCA. 

Ed Sheeran was on the radio. The sky was a misty grey that made all the green look electric. It promised a cleansing rain. The children were quiet (probably for the first time in a month). Inside my heart, a small space of peace and gratefulness began to open up. Grace cracked in like a gentle breeze, refreshing a deep-seeded weariness in my body and mind. I felt my jaw unclench and my shoulders uncurl. The goodness of God was so present. I brought my focus there. I was obedient to that good space God was giving to me. I said, “Yes. This and nothing else in this moment.” In the quietness of my heart, I let him show me that I am loved with an everlasting love and underneath are the everlasting arms. Driving across the busy Victory and Skidaway Road intersection, I drank in The Word.

I’m going to say something that may freak out the die hard conservatives at first, but I really believe we can back this up with scripture:

Spending time in The Word could—at times—have nothing to do with a book. 

For the Jews, The Word was the Torah. The Word of God. The recorded legacy of God’s promises to his people. If you were an ancient Jew and you wanted to spend time in The Word, you read the Torah. Period.

After Jesus comes and turns The Law coo-coo crazy on its head, we find The Word described differently. John tell us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1). 

He? Huh? M’kay, so the book is a boy? No. John is giving us a word picture (no pun intended) of Jesus. The Word = Jesus. Before there was the Torah, before there was a book to sum up God’s promise to his people, there was The Word Jesus.

The Apostle Paul encourages Christians to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:16). Man. I want that. But I’m still not waking up at 5:00 am. 

Here’s the beautiful thing… if The Word is more than The Book, it can dwell in us richly wherever we are. The very next verse assures us of this: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col 3:17). It’s a beautiful sequence. “Let the word dwell in you… whatever you do… do it in the Word.”

Some of us mamas desperately need The Word, but the last thing we need is MORE WORDS! My brother-in-law—at 3 years old—was famous for demanding around the dinner table, “Stoppa yah talkin’!” Dang, ladies, don’t we feel that? Please, no more words. Please, in my rare and beautiful moments of silence, not more words. 

The Word? Yes, please!
Wordy word words? Do we have to? 

Maybe the Word could be a quiet, obedient space in our hearts where we are open to his peace, renewed by his grace, soothed by his kind heart for us. Maybe the Word could be the acceptance of his good promise to patch up a few of those leaky holes in our hearts and fill us with the things we lack. Go on and splash some of that goodness on me, Holy Spirit; I’m tired and twitchy from caffeine, touched out, sick of 5-point harness carseats, and I never want to make another PB&J sandwich in my life. 

“Have you spent time in the Word?”

“Well, gosh, The Word sure as heck has been in me! The Word has been dwelling in me richly. In whatever I do, in word or deed, because I’m doing it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. And bless my buttons, I couldn’t do it any other way.”

Spend time in the Word, my darlings. Make a quiet place in your heart. Let the Word spend some time in you there.

Jesus doesn’t need more of your labors, your doing, your busyness. You are already sacrificing so much for his kingdom. He says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these, my sisters, you did for me” (Matt 25:40). He doesn’t ask you to sacrifice 5:00 am to earn a spiritual fill-up. (Or, he might, but, Sista', he isn’t asking that of me! Shoot!) The Word wants to lavish a spiritual fill-up on you. Free of charge. Rest in him. Let him dwell in the quiet spaces of your heart. Cry out, "Sanctuary!" wherever you are, and look for the blessing to enter your heart exactly in that space.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The 428th Time I've Said I Quit

I just self medicated. With pie.

I have been touched too much for one Monday. 

I have heard too many words with a side of whine. I have put out too many fires, saved too many lives. I have invented too much creative fun, redirected too many potential disasters, put on too many tiny clean outfits only to have them smeared with gunk. I have cleaned only to have every room thoroughly wrecked. I have put my wishes for the day patiently on the shelf and met little person needs over and over and over and THEN… 

In the space of twenty minutes, both boys pooped and grabbed their butts while I was trying to wipe them. Poop hands. No. Just, no. I'm over it. There are no cares left to give. I don’t want to see any more poop. No more. Forever. Blessed Jesus, savior of the world, my poop quota has been filled. Amen. Do not even bother me with your poop from now on.

And still the hammering on my nerves doesn’t let up. Older son has been banished! Banished, I say! To the bedroom with you! Don’t think I don’t hear you sneaking up and down the hall trying to swipe fruit and yogurt. Deception is your middle name. You are trying to put me in an early grave. When your feet approach the kitchen, I will be standing there with Devil Fire in my eyes. 

Meanwhile... on the other side of the street...
The neighbors. The Babymama Drama Crew. Usually one sister or auntie or granny will watch the flock of children while the others are out. There is much spanking, flicking, mocking, much yelling, much cussing. (I will never understand calling a 2 year old a mother fucker. I just won't.) There is no kissing, no playing, no affirming. In traditional Puritan fashion, the children are to be seen and not heard. The adults do their own thing. Smoke their weed. Talk on their phones. Visit with their friends. Watch the cars go by. The kids are clean and dressed and fed. Sometimes they do hair. The end. 

But… there is no back sassing. No whining. No tantrums. No crying. No complaining. No disobedience. There are no shenanigans, no screeching, no trouble. Those kids toe the line.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve gotten my parenting all wrong. 
Sometimes I seriously doubt myself. You do everything “right” with your kids and it just makes your life harder. You just get punished for it. You give everything to your kids, the very best you have to give, and they just turn out bratty, take you for all your worth, and leave you crying in the bathroom... with pie. 

And that’s where the story ends for now. 

My husband has always said he likes how I can take a super dark place and turn it into something positive and up-lifting. It’s good to redeem story… but this is a story that hasn’t run into redemption yet. 

I’m just so friggin tired. 

I need more pie.